It looked as if the Gwynn Park girls might coast to victory on Tuesday night. The Yellow Jackets led Prince George’s County 2A rival Largo nearly the entire game, at one point stretching their lead to 11 points in the fourth quarter.
But suddenly Largo guard Stephanie Guihon went off, and Gwynn Park was on the verge of collapse on its home court.
“We wanted to really tire Stephanie down,” Gwynn Park Coach Mike Strother said, “but she’s a heck of a player.”
Guihon barreled toward the basket with abandon en route to 16 fourth-quarter points, giving the Lions a one-point lead off a three-point play with 31 seconds remaining. But Gwynn Park forward Jada Lewis converted a short-range bucket on the other end, and the Yellow Jackets held on for an emotional 71-69 victory in Brandywine.
Tuesday’s whirlwind battle was largely defined by two relentless guards who thrive on the fast break. On one end was Guihon, a slasher who thrives on dribble penetration. On the other was Gwynn Park sophomore Denai Bowman (team-high 27 points), a smooth operator always looking to push the pace but content to find her teammates.
Guihon, the Washington area’s leading scorer (29.6 ppg), finished with 39 points. Gwynn Park’s trapping press wore her down in the first half, forcing uncharacteristic missed layups that at one point prompted Largo Coach Ayana Ball-Ward to slam her fist into a Gatorade cooler in exasperation.
But as the second half wore on, Guihon gathered her frustration and elevated her play even as exhaustion set in.
“Her body control is just crazy,” Strother said. “She was able to control her body in the air and finish those shots when we had excellent defense on her.”
A gruesome head-to-head collision between two Largo players midway through the fourth quarter caused a 10-minute stoppage in play as Assata Reid lay near the foul line receiving medical attention. The pause appeared to throw Gwynn Park’s momentum off kilter and light a fire under the visitors.
“We came back out pretty soft,” said Gwynn Park guard Janell Jackson-McKennelly, who finished with 17 points. “But at the end of the day we finished the game.”
Back-to-back runners from Guihon tied the game at 65 with 2:33 to play. With 35 seconds left, Guihon stole an inbounds pass near midcourt and charged toward the basket, absorbing a foul and finishing the layup to give the Lions (12-6, 10-3 Prince George’s 3A/2A/1A) their first lead since the opening quarter. The tenacious senior exhorted her teammates with screams as she approached the foul line, then missed the ensuing attempt.
Lewis put the Yellow Jackets (16-4, 10-1) back ahead on the other end, and Largo turned it over off a jump ball with seven seconds remaining.
The victory secured Gwynn Park the top seed heading into the 2A South region playoffs next week.
“We’ll meet them again,” Strother said. “No question we’ll meet them again.”